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Ithmid (antimony) Kohl : what is it and why it is special ?

If you have never heard of Ithmid (antimony) Kohl, then reading this article aims to introduce you to Ithmid (antimony) kohl to you, making understand what it is and why it is important in Islam.
Kohl in Arabic is anything that is applied to the eye and/or its surroundings such as eyelashes and eyebrows.
Ithmid (antimony) is a type of a natural stone which when powdered is called Ithmid (antimony) Kohl and is used as a kohl for the eyes and the surrounding hair.

A special Kohl

Ithmid (antimony) Kohl is special because unlike other types of Kohl it carries enormous health benefits for the eyes. As an added bonus, Ithmid (antimony) Kohl also beautifies the eyes in a unique and different way.
Ithmid (antimony) kohl has been used for over 15 centuries to enhance eyesight and maintain overall eye health. Even before the dawn of Islam and at the time of Jahilyah, Ithmid (antimony) kohl was famous for its unique benefits.
Other types of kohl (stuff applied to eyes and its hairs) only carry beauty benefits and ,contrary to promoting health as Ithmid (antimony) kohl does, often contain harmful substances.

The only kohl approved by the prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم

What makes Ithmid (antimony) kohl truly special is that it is the only type of kohl the prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم has praised and affirmed its benefits.

Ibn Al-Abbas (رضي الله عنهما ) narrated that the prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم said : “The best of your kohl is ithmid (antimony), for it makes the vision clear and makes the hair grow.”

Not only did the prophet ( صلي الله عليه وسلم ) praised Ithmid kohl but he also commanded it to be used.

Ibn Al-Abbas (رضي الله عنهما) narrated that the prophet ( صلي الله عليه وسلم ) said : Apply ithmid (antimony) to your eyes, for it makes the vision clear and makes the hair grow”

This hadeeth, classed saheeh by Al-Albaani, reflects the importance and specialness of Ithmid (antimony) kohl as the prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم ) would not have felt the need to order it to be used unless if it was of such a high significance and benefit.

Because of the incredible benefits of Ithmid (antimony) kohl, the prophet صلي الله عليه وسلم himself used to apply Ithmid kohl to his eyes when going to sleep, to maintain his eye health and set an example for us to follow.

Aisha رضي الله عنهما)ا) has reported that the prophet ( صلي الله عليه وسلم ) “used to have an Ithmid (antimony) from which he used to apply kohl three times in his eyes when going to sleep”
Ibn Al-Abbas (رضي الله عنهما) also said: “The Prophet ( صلي الله عليه وسلم ) used to have a Kohl container and used to apply Kohl 3 times in each eye”

This article has hopefully made you aware about this little known sunnah and realise the significance of Ithmid (antimony) kohl in Islam.

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A look at Hadith : Is Kohl really a Sunnah ?

As discussed previously , it is observed that Hadiths found within the Sunnah refer specifically to one type of Kohl: Ithmid Kohl.

Since the word Kohl refers to , in Arabic, anything applied on the eyes and/or its related hair, it is incorrect to say that Kohl is a Sunnah. Rather, applying Ithmid Kohl , to the exclusion of other types of Kohl, is a Sunnah.

Hadiths on Kohl are all referring to Ithmid Kohl

عَنْ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ رضي الله عنهماَالَ : قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : (إِنَّ خَيْرَ أَكْحَالِكُمُ الْإِثْمِدُ يَجْلُو الْبَصَرَ وَيُنْبِتُ الشَّعْرَ) رواه أبو داود (3878) والنسائي (5113) وابن ماجه (3497) ، وصححه الألباني في “صحيح أبي داود”

Narrated by Ibn Abbaas, May Allah be pleased with them: Said the Prophet of Allah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : ( Indeed the best of your Kohls is the Ithmid… (it) Yajlu (enhances) vision and Yunbit (Grows, tames etc) hair).
Sunan al-Nasaa’i (5113) , Sunan Abi Dawood (3837), Sunan Ibn Majah (3497). Graded Saheeh by Al-Albaani in the “Saheeh of Abi Dawood”.

وعَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ رضي الله عنهما أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ : (اكْتَحِلُوا بِالإِثْمِدِ فَإِنَّهُ يَجْلُو البَصَرَ ، وَيُنْبِتُ الشَّعْرَ) رواه الترمذي (1757) ، وصححه الألباني في “صحيح الترمذي

Narrated by Ibn Abbaas, May Allah be pleased with them: Said the Prophet of Allah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : ( Use Ithmid as a Kohl for it Yajlu (enhances, improves etc) vision and Yunbitu ( Grows, tames etc) hair ).

Reported by Al-Tirmidhi (1757), and graded Saheed by Al-Albaani in the ” Saheeh of Al-Tirmidhi”

وعن علي بن أبي طالب رضي الله عنه أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال : (عَلَيْكُم بِالإِثْمِد فَإِنَّهُ مَنْبَتَةٌ للشَّعْرِ ، مَذْهَبَةٌ للقَذَى ، مَصْفَاةٌ لِلْبَصَرِ) أخرجه الطبراني في “الكبير” (1/109 ، رقم 183) وحسَّنه المنذري والعراقي وابن حجر ، انظر “الترغيب والترهيب” (3/89) و “فتح الباري” (10/157)

Narrated by Ali Bin Abi Taalib, May Allah be pleased with him, that the Prophet of Allah صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ said : ( Use Ithmid for it is “Munbit” ( Grows) hair, removes “Al-Qada” (dirt, debris, germs etc), and acts as a “Masfah” (sieve, purifier, filter etc) for the vision).
Reported by Al-Tabarani in ” Al-Mujam al-Kabeer “ (1/109, no:183 ). Classed as Hassan by Almundiri, Al-Hafiz Al-Iraqy and Ibn Hajar. See the Fath-Albari (10/157) and Al-Targheeb Wal-Tarheeb (3/89).

These are the strongest Hadiths on Kohl and they all explicitly refer to Ithmid Kohl, as we can see. There is also other weaker Hadiths (in terms of grading) which affirm the view that Ithmid Kohl is the only type of Kohl which its use and application can be described as being a Sunnah practice.

In Fath-Albari, Ibn Hajar mentioned several Hadiths further encouraging the use of Ithmid Kohl. It is reported from Anas, May Allah be pleased with him, to have said that ” He (The prophet صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ used to command us to use Ithmid”. Aisha, May Allah be pleased with her, is reported to have said that “the prophet صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ used to own an Ithmid Kohl which he used to apply when going to sleep thrice (three times) in each eye”. Abu Huraira and Saeed Bin Hawdah, May Allah be pleased with them, have also narrated similar Hadiths encouraging the use of Ithmid Kohl and stipulating its superiority over other types of Kohl.

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Clearing misconceptions about Kohl

What image comes to your mind as the word Kohl is mentioned? And how do you feel about it?

Except those who have good understanding of the concept of Kohl in Islam, most people tend to have a wrong perception of Kohl, which is the reason why some men might shudder at or even oppose the idea of men applying Kohl.

For many of us, Kohl conjures an image of a mascara-like substance used to darken and blacken the eyelashes and eyeborows, for the sole purpose of beautification and making one more attractive. Some of us might even just be thinking of it as some sort of cultural cosmetic habit. Most will have a faint idea of it being a Sunnah and a prophetic tradition, without any knowledge on the Ahadith that pertain to it. But for the vast majority of us it will not stir any strong feelings of approval, likeness or pride.

This wrong perception is established by the way Kohl is used traditionally within our cultures, and it acts as a barrier against some muslims, especially men, adopting this prophetic practice.

Like many of the problems that exist in the Ummah, this wrong thinking is due to a lack of knowledge on the Sunnah in particular , and the Deen in general. People are far from studying, understanding and acting upon the vast amounts of golden information found within our beautiful Deen.

The majority of us are just getting-by with the barest minimum knowledge on the affairs of the religion. As a result, many of us are missing out on a lot of valuable knowledge that could have , to a great degree, improved many different areas of our worldly life including our health and well being.

The correct way of viewing Kohl/Surma/Kajal (especially Ithmid)

First of all, it is important to understand that the arabic word “Kohl” refers to anything that is applied on the eyes, eyelashes and eyebrows. This is also the case with the words “Surma” and “Kajal” used in South Asia, or their somali equivalent, “Indha-Kuul”.

In this context anything made of any kind of substance can act as a Kohl, Kajal, Surma or Indha-Kuul.

Considering this wider meaning of the word, modern eyeliner and mascara products are a form of Kohl or Surma/Kajal/Indha-kuul.

On a close studying of relevant Ahadith, it becomes apparent that saying Kohl is recommended and used by the prophet صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ is sort of wrong.

Almost all the Hadiths relating to the use of kohl explicitly refer to Ithmid kohl only. The prophet صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ recommended and used Ithmid Kohl only.

There is no evidence of the prophet recommending the practice of Kohl in general or the use of other types of Kohl.

This is not to say that other substances that are used as a Kohl are haram and not allowed, but it is wrong to claim that this mere practice of applying these substances (Kohl) is a sunnah.

It is more specific than that.
The practice of applying various substances on the eyes and its surroundings for cosmetic and health purposes has been around well before the coming of Islam, and there is many different substances such as charcoal and that can be used to this end.

One of the queens of ancient Egypt, where Kohl was popular, used to have a grounded Frankincense as a Kohl. In modern times, various chemicals are used to make eye liners and mascara products ,which are also a form of Kohl.

Therefore, It is important to make the distinction between Ithmid Koh, which is the Kohl used and recommended by the prophet صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ and other types of Kohl.

Secondly, and this is very important point for men in particular: Applying ithmid Kohl is not like you are applying a mascara or an eyeliner. Rather you should view it as using a miracolous substance that has been proven throughout centuries to be beneficial for eye health and maintaning optimum vision. Not only that, you are following a practice and an advice of your beloved صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ whom following him only brings goodness and bliss.

Once the above-mentioned points are well understood and taken into account, it becomes easy to tackle the misconception that there is a contradiction between the Sunnah of applying Kohl and the medical opinion of experts, which advises against the use of Kohl due to high levels of toxic Lead. As we discussed before, Kohl can not be lumped together as one thing since different Kohl products contain different substances.

Rather just thinking of it as a some sort of trivial cultural thing, whenever Ithmid Kohl is mentioned it should stir love and pride within the heart.

Love : because the prophet`s صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ commandment for us to use Ithmid Kohl is a reflection of his never-ending efforts to teach his Ummah everything that is of a benefit to them. Some even consider Ithmid Kohl as a miracle showing the truthfulness of the prophet as the prophet described accurately benefits of Ithmid Kohl (vision improvement and hair growth) which always occur as exactly as he صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ mentioned.

Pride : because Ithmid Kohl is yet another example of the many practical Islamic teachings relating to health and well-being which have been shown to be enormously beneficial. It makes one proud to be a follower of such a great religion that is full of sound practices that are not based on superstition and mere faith only, but actually works and delivers.
Hopefully this post has opened your eyes and cleared up any wrong perceptions you might have had about Kohl. The relevant Hadiths were ommited to avoid making the article any longer. For a comprehensive look at the hadiths on Kohl, refer to ” A look at hadith : Is Kohl really a Sunnah ?”.

Speak your mind:
If you have any questions, thoughts or feedback about this article , please leave a comment.
Has reading this article changed your perception about Kohl ? If no, why not?